Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Bobby Jindal and Mike Lee on school choice / education reform

Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

This is an editorial from the Washington Examiner, authored by school choice champion Bobby Jindal.

What is school choice?

On the most basic level, school choice represents the freedom to choose — empowering parents to select the best educational options for their sons and daughters. That could be a charter school, a private school, a religious school, home schooling, or even online learning. Governments should provide parents with the personalized and individualized tools they need to help their children excel academically.

That freedom to choose in turn will provide children with the freedom to succeed. With the right educational environment, teachers and academic training; students from all locations, income brackets and demographic groups will have better tools to compete in the global economy. We need to develop the talents of every American — no matter where he or she is from, and no matter the color of his or her skin — to maximize our country’s potential.

School choice also serves another important purpose — freeing low-income children from failing schools. No child should see his God-given talents go to waste because he is stuck in a failing school — and no parent should face the disempowerment that comes from knowing her son or daughter remains trapped in a poor school, and she lacks the financial means to move that child elsewhere. We can do better — and, by allowing parents dissatisfied with their school to move with their feet, school choice gives both high-performing and low-performing schools more incentive and motivation to improve their offerings.

Finally, school choice provides parents with freedom from the status quo — an educational-industrial complex that thinks bureaucrats, not parents, can best make decisions about the lives and futures of America’s children. It’s about pushing back when the then-head of Louisiana’s largest teachers’ union said low-income parents had “no clue” how to choose the right school for their children. And it’s even about standing up to the Attorney General of the United States, when the Department of Justice asked a court to block Louisiana’s school scholarship program on civil rights grounds — even though 90 percent of the program’s participants come from racial minority groups.

I don’t like people who talk conservative but govern liberal. I want to see the achievements.

The numbers:

For here in Louisiana, we’ve put those principles to practice. Since we removed the cap on charters in 2009, we’ve authorized almost 200 charter schools throughout the state — that’s 70,000 kids who now have a choice about where they go to school. This last year, our Recovery School District became the nation’s first school district with 100 percent charter school enrollment. And the results are dramatic: The graduation rate in New Orleans has increased from 54.4 percent before Hurricane Katrina in 2004 to 72.8 percent; the percentage of New Orleans students scoring basic and above has increased from 35 percent to 63 percent; and the percentage of failing schools in New Orleans has dropped from 67 percent in 2005 to 17 percent.

We expanded our school choice scholarship program, which was initially confined to New Orleans, statewide. Parental satisfaction with the statewide scholarship program stands at a whopping 91.9 percent. We went even further though and created a dollar for dollar rebate for donations used to fund nonpublic school scholarships low-income students through our “school tuition organizations.” Between 2008 and 2013, the percentage of students in the scholarship program who are proficient in third grade English language arts has grown by 20 percentage points and in math by 28 percentage points. Again and again, we’ve proven that giving more choice to parents is not only vital, but it gets results.

We also expanded access to online and dual enrollment courses for students across the state. This year, we’ve had over 19,000 students take advantage of our Course Choice program enrolling in advanced placement courses and career and technical courses that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

He’s in my top 2 for the 2016 presidential race, along with Scott Walker.

I’d like to see school choice enacted at the federal level, and fortunately, Utah Senator Mike Lee has the same idea.

Utah Senator Mike Lee

Utah Senator Mike Lee

The Daily Signal reports:

I recently introduced in the Senate a bill that would empower the people most acutely committed to the quality of our education system: America’s moms and dads. My colleague on the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., has introduced a companion bill in the House.

By giving parents more power to invest in their child’s education and to choose what school best meets their needs, the Enhancing Educational Opportunities for All Act takes an important step toward restoring accountability to our public education system—something that has been missing for far too long.

Under our current system—which has remained essentially unchanged since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act—most parents are powerless to influence the quality of their child’s education.

What occurs in public school classrooms around the country—what teachers teach and how they teach it—is the result of a long, convoluted, bureaucratic chain of command that zigzags its way from Washington to local school districts, but never includes parents.

First, Congress passes legislation authorizing federal bureaucrats to establish rules, regulations, and standards with which states must comply in order to receive federal education funds.

Next, state officials refine—or in some cases distort—these Washington directives, writing narrower rules for their school districts, which then establish the specific policies for individual schools.

At no point in this decision-making process are parents consulted.

Instead, they are left with a “take it or leave it” choice: either accept the education offered at the local public school—no matter how bad it may be—or buy a better alternative, by moving closer to a better school or paying private school tuition.

For America’s most affluent families, this is no big deal—they can afford private schools and so have the power to choose the school that is best for their children. For everyone else, it precludes parents from making choices about their children’s education.

So our bill would expand school choice to all parents, regardless of socio-economic status or zip code, by allowing federal “Title I” K-12 support funds to follow low-income students to any public or private school of their choice.

It would also remove the contribution limits on Coverdell education savings accounts and allow “529” account funds to cover K-12 education expenses.

Our bill would give working parents more opportunities to invest in a variety of learning services and products outside the classroom, such as tutoring, online courses and textbooks.

The problem facing our public school system today is not about a lack of money—we have nearly tripled our investments in elementary and secondary students since 1970. The problem is dysfunctional government policy—however well intentioned—and a lack of accountability.

And that’s exactly what we should expect when Washington bureaucrats have more control than parents over a child’s education. We have a moral and economic obligation to flip this equation and put parents back in the driver’s seat.

For when we tolerate a system in which the quality of a child’s education depends on her parents’ zip code, we fail to live up to the ideals at the heart of American exceptionalism.

And when millions of children learn from a young age not to dream big, but to surrender to the hopelessness of low expectations, we will live in a society where upward mobility is no longer rule but the exception.

We can and we must do better.

If a school is failing – and they often are, especially in poorer areas – then shouldn’t parents have the ability to send their kids to a better school? When I want to buy something online, I know I can always do better by comparing prices and reviews. Competition between suppliers drives prices down, and raises quality up. The customer is king in the free market. It can work in education, too.

Related posts

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Republican senator Tim Scott pushes school choice in MSNBC interview

I managed to find some of the transcript here on Newsbusters.

Let Tim Scott explain it:

THOMAS ROBERTS: This is Thomas Roberts by the way. You said you are concerned about kids that growing up in the wrong zip code and — like yourself that had a tough start on the way out. But if we look at agencies that are following some of your voting records, they have concern. And the NAACP has given you an “F” on their annual scorecard. They also say that you voted against the ACA. You voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. You oppose the Congressional Black Caucus’ budget. Delayed funding on a settlement between the U.S. and black farmers who say they were prejudiced against because of their race. So how do you respond to that, if your true concern is about lower-income families and kids? 

TIM SCOTT: Let’s just ask ourselves if we look back over history when the congress was controlled by the Democrats for 40 consecutive years. If we look at the result of that control, what has happened in black America? We saw greater poverty. If we take statistics from the 1970s to the 21st-century, what we see very clearly is that poverty’s gone from 11% to 15%. These are classic examples of the policies of the left have not worked. I will tell you, that if I have an “F” on the NAACP scorecard, it’s because I believe progress has to be made and the government is not the answer for progress. I was a kid growing up in poverty. I had a mentor who was a Chick-fil-A operator named John Moniz who taught me that the brilliance of the American economy happens through business ownership and entrepreneurial spirit. So whether you own the business or not, success is possible if you, a: have a good education, b: have a strong work ethic. For the average person who can work. These two key components come together and form a foundation. That is the way that you eradicate poverty. All the social programs that we’ve had. We have the largest government we’ve ever had in the history of the country. We have more nonprofit organizations working on the same issue. And yet we have higher percentage of people living in poverty. The key it seems like is individual freedom and economic opportunity, fusing those together in an agenda that focuses on education seems to leave forward.

Elsewhere in the interview, he talks about how Indian-American Republican Governor Bobby Jindal has pushed hard for vouchers for the poor in Louisiana, and how the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship voucher program helped the poorest black students to get a quality education – even though Barack Obama opposed it as a favor to their public sector union bosses.

See, here’s the deal. If Republicans want to get serious about winning the votes of poor people and minorities, they don’t have to pass policies that discriminate against the wealthy or against whites. They just have to pass good policies. It shouldn’t matter what color anybody’s skin is. School choice is a police that disproportionately benefits the poor and minorities, but it doesn’t discriminate. You just hand money to the parents whose children are stuck in an underperforming public school, and then the parents decide where to send their child. This is better than forcing parents to have to send their kids to a failing public school. It is not right for a child to be handed a garbage education just because lazy unionized Democrats don’t want to face competition from private schools. Kids come first!

Let’s learn about school choice from the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

Cato Institute:

The Heritage Foundation:

Awesome!

This is how you build Republican  voters and do the right thing at the same time. Republicans like to help the poor. But we also like to screw the public sector unions. Private unions are fine – public sector unions are poisonous. We have to destroy them and save the children, at the same time. Everybody wins! Well, except the Democrats.

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Stephen C. Meyer debates Peter D. Ward on intelligent design and evolution

The speakers

Stephen C. Meyer is director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) and a founder both of the intelligent design movement and of the CSC, intelligent design’s primary intellectual and scientific headquarters. Dr. Meyer is a Cambridge University-trained philosopher of science, the author of peer-reviewed publications in technical, scientific, philosophical and other books and journals. His signal contribution to ID theory is given most fully in Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, published by HarperOne in June 2009.

Graduating from Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, in 1981 with a degree in physics and earth science, he later became a geophysicist with Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) in Dallas, Texas. From 1981 to 1985, he worked for ARCO in digital signal processing and seismic survey interpretation. As a Rotary International Scholar, he received his training in the history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University, earning a PhD in 1991. His thesis offered a methodological interpretation of origin-of-life research.

Peter D. Ward, Ph.D., is a paleontologist and professor in the Departments of Geology and Biology at the University of Washington in Seattle. He also serves as an adjunct professor of zoology and astronomy. His research specialties include the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event and mass extinctions generally. His books include the best-selling “Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe” (co-author Donald Brownlee, 2000), “Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future” (2007), and “The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?” (2009).

The debate

Here’s the video of the debate:

The debate itself starts at around 8:19, after all the moderators have spoken.

The debate is focused on disagreements about scientific evidence.

Even though Peter Ward is an atheist, he has co-written a fabulous book that I own and have read called “Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe“. I really recommend getting this book, as it is a great book by two non-theists on the habitability argument. It’s sort of a secular precursor to Jay Richards’ and Guillermo Gonzalez’s “The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery“. The habitability argument is a really neglected argument, but it’s a good one.

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Melissa Cain Travis: public schools and the Christian worldview

This is a must-read post for all Christian parents about public schools, by homeschooling mom and Christian apologist Melissa Cain Travis.

Excerpt:

A secularized education communicates the falsehood that truths about the world are entirely separable from–and have meaning apart from–God and the Christian worldview. Attempts to “neutralize” education in order to accommodate a pluralistic society result in distortions that slant everything away from the truth about God, the nature of man, and objective morality. The “big questions” may not be directly addressed in the classroom, but this avoidance automatically yet subtly communicates the philosophy of relativism–that there are many “right” answers to those questions, so the school room is not the place to teach one particular view.

What does this mean for children who attend public school but are from practicing Christian families? They tend to grow up with a compartmentalized intellect. On the one hand, there’s everything they learn at school, and on the other hand, there’s everything they learn at home and at church. But this is all wrong. All truth is God’s truth, and everydiscipline (history, mathematics, science, literature, social studies, etc.) is related in some fashion to ultimate reality.

I’ve often heard parents say, “Well, almost all the teachers at our public school are Christians, so I’m not worried.” This shows misunderstanding about the central issue here.It’s not about what a teacher may quietly choose to skip when presenting the state curriculum to his or her class; it’s about the teacher’s complete inability, legally speaking, to present anything within the correct framework.

The rest of the post contains an excellent 2-minute video, which explains how public education is designed to marginalize religious points of view in public discourse. And then there are tips for Christian parents who have no other choice but to put their children in public schools.

My biggest problem with public schools and children is that the schools are trying to explain everything without any reference to a Creator and Designer. When you try to explain everything while preventing by law any discussion of how religion informs what is being studied, you are telling the child that God has no place in how people understand the world.

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Michael Ruse debates Stephen C. Meyer on intelligent design and evolution on NPR

Details: (from NPR web site)

About one third of Americans believe in intelligent design, according to a recent Gallup poll. That’s the idea that humans evolved over time from lesser life forms – with the process guided by God. It’s added a new dimension to the old debate over where humans come from and raised serious concern in the scientific world about mixing faith with science.

  • Stephen C. Meyer, author of Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design
  • Michael Ruse, Director of the History and Philosophy of Science Program at Florida State University

The MP3 file is here. (28 minutes)

The following summary is rated S for Slightly Snarky. Reader discretion is advised.

Topics:

  • Moderator: (to Meyer) define creationism, evolution, and intelligent design
  • Meyer: creationism is based on an interpretation of the Bible
  • Meyer: evolution is an unguided process of mutation and selection that produces organisms
  • Meyer: intelligent design is the idea that the best explanation for certain features of life
  • Moderator: (to Ruse) Where do you disagree?
  • Ruse: Intelligent design is similar to creationism, but I won’t say how exactly
  • Meyer: ID is a good explanation for the sudden origin of animal body plans in the Cambrian era
  • Moderator: (to Meyer) Is the designer God? Is the designer the Christian God?
  • Meyer: No, ID theory is an inference that is rooted in scientific evidence, not in a religious text
  • Meyer: ID can be inferred from the origin of biological information and from molecular machines
  • Moderator: (to Ruse) Where do you disagree?
  • Ruse: Meyer is disingenuous because ID requires the designer to be God
  • Meyer: The biological evidence for intelligent design by itself does not implicate God
  • Meyer: The fine-tuning of the cosmos is intelligent design in physics, and that *would* require God
  • Moderator: (to Meyer) Explain what the Cambrian explosion is
  • Meyer: sudden origin of 36 body plans in 10 million years 530 million years ago
  • Moderator: So you think that 36 body plans in 10 million years is too sudden for Darwinian mechanisms to produce?
  • Meyer: Yes, for two reasons. One, there are no precursors prior to the start of the explosion in complexity
  • Meyer: And two, the complexity of animal life includes code, circuitry, hierarchies – best explained by a designer
  • Moderator: (to Ruse) Is it a problem for you?
  • Ruse: There is no peer-reviewed paper that denies that the Ediacaran fauna are precursors to the Cambrian animals
  • Ruse: There is no peer-reviewed paper that denies that microfossils are precursors to the Cambrian animals
  • Ruse: There is no peer-reviewed paper that denies that animal complexity goes from simple to complex in the fossil record
  • Ruse: There is no peer-reviewed paper that shows that the Cambrian explosion took place over a few million years
  • Ruse: There is no peer-reviewed paper that shows that there were complex organ types at the start of the Cambrian explosion
  • Ruse: There is no peer-reviewed paper that denies that we already have a materialist explanation for the Cambrian explosion
  • Ruse: everything is solved! nothing to see here! (folds arms and beams) I trust that my unsupported assertions have relieved your doubts, yes?
  • Moderator: Is intelligent design undermined by more recent science?
  • Meyer: no, there is an absence of precursor fossils in the period before the Cambrian explosion
  • Meyer: there are other things that make the problem even worse for naturalism, like information from epigenetics
  • Moderator: (to Ruse) Answer that
  • Ruse: He is just pulling out passages out of context because he is a creationist!
  • Moderator: The leftist New Yorker reviewer Gareth Cook says that the Cambrian explosion took tens of millions of years
  • Meyer: Actually, the peer-reviewed science is clear that the standard date is at most 10 million nears
  • Moderator: (to Ruse) Deny the mainstream date
  • Ruse: Well, Prothero says no! Ho ho ho! (folds arms) He just says it. No it’s not published in peer-reviewed research
  • Ruse: We know so much more than Darwin did, how could the progress of science disprove my materialist pre-supposition? It’s unpossible!
  • Moderator: (to Meyer) Isn’t ID pseudo-science?
  • Meyer: If we limit ourselves to materialist explanations only, then we cannot infer intelligence when we see artifacts like the Rosetta Stone
  • Meyer: wind and erosion is not an adequate explanation for certain systems – systems that are rich in information
  • Meyer: the best explanation is the explanation that relies on known causes – we know that intelligence produces information
  • Moderator: (to Meyer) so the intelligence is the best explanation of systems that have information?
  • Meyer: yes, think about software code – the best explanation of new computer instructions is an intelligence
  • Meyer: we have uniform and repeated experience of intelligence bringing new information into being, and new animals need new information
  • Moderator: (to Ruse) must science only work with natural explanations?
  • Ruse: intelligent design is religion! Ho ho ho ho! (folds arms)
  • Ruse: there is no a priori way of ruling out supernatural causes in order to explain nature
  • Ruse: We don’t need to introduce supernatural causes to explain information in living systems or in software code
  • Ruse: Steve is asking me to explain the Cambrian explosion, but why does he want me to explain that?
  • Ruse: How did anything start to fly? How did whales come? There, those questions explain the Cambrian explosion naturalistically
  • Ruse: Steve’s answer to explain new information is to bring in miracles, like when he said that new computer code requires God
  • Ruse: inferring intelligence as an explanation for information like the computer code is religion! God! Creationism! Prayer in schools!
  • Ruse: we have to keep looking for naturalistic explanations for the Big Bang, the DNA, the fine-tuning, the Cambrian fossils, etc.
  • Ruse: we are never justified in inferring an intelligence to explain information, because that would deny my religion of materialism
  • Moderator: (to Ruse) what are the requirements for a theory to be scientific?
  • Ruse: any explanation has to be naturalistic, because I am an atheist and that’s my religion, and we can’t go against my religion
  • Ruse: it’s “really stupid” to infer God as the explanation of the creation of the entire physical universe or the cosmic fine-tuning
  • Moderator: (to Meyer) why is intelligent design so popular when we have court cases saying it is not science?
  • Meyer: the Discovery Institute does not have an agenda to teach intelligent design in public schools
  • Meyer: intelligent design is about inferring intelligence as a causal explanation for information in living systems, and elsewhere
  • Moderator: (to Ruse) are evolutionists unwilling to entertain the possibility of intelligence being the best explanation?
  • Ruse: scientists have to make sure that that all their explanations don’t go outside of the materialist reservation
  • Ruse: intelligent design is evangelical Christianity dressed up to look like science, the Dover judge said so
  • Ruse: Meyer is disingenuous! Ho ho ho ho ho! (folds arms contentedly)
  • Meyer: first, judges don’t decide science, evidence decides science
  • Meyer: the Dover people made a mistake by trying to go to the courts to get things into the schools
  • Meyer: intelligent design is about research, writing books and papers based on what we learn from science
  • Moderator: (to Ruse) is intelligent design dangerous?
  • Ruse: yes, intelligent design is about politics, it’s not about cosmic fine-tuning, origin of life, molecular machines or Cambrian explosion
  • Ruse: intelligent design is about abstinence, prayer in schools, burdening women with unwanted babies and male-female marriage
  • Ruse: my reason for opposing ID is the socially conservative agenda which emerges from protein folding probability calculations
  • Ruse: I don’t want to be drafted to fight in Vietnam, I don’t want them to take away my drugs, etc. so that’s why I believe Darwinism
  • Moderator: (to Meyer) why do you want to take abortion away, you meany?
  • Meyer: actually, intelligent design is about science, and in any case National Review gave my book a bad review
  • Moderator: (to Ruse) are science and religion in conflict?
  • Ruse: well religion can just abstain from making any claims about the physical world, and just stick to subjective nonsense – that’s fair
  • Moderator: (to Meyer) isn’t all opposition to evolution rooted in fundamentalist religion?
  • Meyer: you can believe in Darwinism and be a theist, but the real reason for doubting Darwinism is the scientific evidence, not religion

Tell me how you think Dr. Meyer did in the comments. I think that Ruse is a Darwinist because he views it as a way to push people away from the conservative morality and politics. But he’s a nice guy, and I appreciate him debating the issue. Things are tough right now for his side.

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